It was one of the biggest, splashiest camper van debuts of 2017, and now it's heading to highways and byways. Volkswagen's California XXL concept will officially give way to a Crafter-based production camper van at this year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. It'll certainly lose some of the wilder features and flair of the slick concept van, but it'll give VW camper bus buyers something larger and newer to think about.
Even before VW's official announcement today, all stars seemed to be aligning for a production version of the 2017 California XXL concept. After stealing the show at the 2017 Düsseldorf salon with the concept, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has spent much time in 2018 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the smaller, Transporter-based California camper van. The celebration even saw the camper icon leap the Atlantic for a rare appearance on actual California soil (the Transporter and California are, quite infamously, not sold in the US).
What better way to slap an exclamation point onto the anniversary celebrations than by introducing an all-new Crafter California? We're assuming that VW works the "California" name into the production camper van model, though that isn't yet a certainty. Its announcement refers to the production van not as the California XXL but as a "Crafter-based camper."
Whatever its name, an XXL-based production model is great news for anyone who loved the concept (we definitely did) and VW camper van fans in general. On the downside, though, the production version will undoubtedly lose some of the creative features that made the California XXL concept such a hit.
The chopping block almost certainly includes any or all of the slide-out bathroom extension, bedroom projection TV system, retractable stove burners and smart home-like tablet control system, among other clever features. Whether the production version manages to retain enough innovation to be more than just a bigger California remains to be seen.
Then again, the Transporter California remains a camper van icon despite being a fairly straightforward camper package, so maybe the new Crafter camper doesn't need to be all that much more than a bigger California to make some noise.
Volkswagen has teased the production design with a trio of sketches, and one big difference we can see is that the production camper layout will be positioned within a standard Crafter body – no extended upper rear bodywork. That's actually a good move because that extended bodywork was one of the least attractive features of the concept, eliminating the useful rear load doors and making the van look absolutely bloated. If you can build a California camper van from a Transporter, no reason you can't build one from a standard-body Crafter.
The production van does retain the concept's high roof and rear bed, so we anticipate that it'll be a three- or four-sleeper with built-in roof bed. The loss of the extended body means that the cozy rear bedroom area will give way to a simpler convertible rear bed. The below sketch shows a central bed panel that can remove to open the aisle up, likely enough to load longer items like bicycles and surfboards through the double doors, a feature lacking on the rear door-less concept van.
We aren't expecting to see a sliding bathroom on the production version, and the third sketch released today shows a new bathroom configuration with corner sink and toilet. It appears that the toilet might swivel away into a compartment below the sink. The new camper van will also include a shower.
As for the California XXL concept's slick, smart home-style command tablet, touchscreen control systems have been featuring in more motorhomes, including the recently debuted Leisure Wonder RTB and Knaus Van Ti Plus. However, those systems tend to fall short of Volkswagen's removable tablet concept, which controlled not only motorhome basics like lighting but also music and entertainment. So we'll have to wait and see what VW does there.
Beyond the penciled sneak peek, Volkswagen has revealed only that the Crafter camper van will tie in with the Transporter California with shared features like a choice of solid and dual-tone exterior paint. As in the XXL concept, VW will use its color palette to keep the interior light and bright.
At the end of the day, we're tempering expectations for a full production version of the concept California XXL while hoping that some of the more useful concept features make their way to production – pretty much the same thing we'd do for any other production-bound concept car or vehicle.
Volkswagen plans to reveal more details as the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon debut approaches. The show gets underway on August 24.
Along with the new sketches, we've included a bunch of photos of the 2017 California XXL concept camper in the gallery so you can get another look at what features you hope show up in production. We've also thrown in some shots of VW's year of California celebrations - because who doesn't love checking out another VW camper bus or two?
Source: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles
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